Why the Production Designer is my best friend
To celebrate the theatrical release of Ngôi Nhà Trong Hẻm (House in the Alley), I'll share this photo. It was taken when the production design team was about halfway through their work transforming the house in which we shot 80% of the film.
This one photo guided the look for most of the film. I even incorporated the fluorescent bulb work lights they had lying on the floor.
When the director and I walked in, I could see all the conversations we'd had about aesthetics, mood, color and tone take a concrete form that we could execute. I was very excited.
This photo might simply show an empty room with a light bulb on the floor. But for me it showed me what the film was going to look like. The work on making the walls look old was maybe halfway done, but I could start to feel the textures. The colors were there. It inspired lighting that was unusual, but motivated and rooted in the character of the house. We played with reflective surfaces. The photo speaks to a house that is unfinished yet has a rot rising from the foundations.
I was thrilled with the production design team's work on this house - it made my work so much easier and so much better. Even if we were simply shooting a closeup against a blank wall, the wall had texture, character and visual interest. I really appreciated that they sought my input and did their best to incorporate my requests. I'm happy with the work I did on the film, however, without their work, the film wouldn't look even half so good.
As a cinematographer who primarily works on projects with very limited resources, I like to see those resources go on screen. That means locations and production design. I can do so much more with a couple lights and a great space than with all the equipment I could possibly dream of in a boring space.
Thanks to the production design team on Ngôi Nhà Trong Hẻm for giving the rest of us in the cast & crew an inspiring space to in which to shoot.